SPECIAL FEATURE Things I Wish I'd Known Before


To learn from others and avoid pitfalls on the path, 

Loretta Flockhart is asking what authors and illustrators 

wish they’d known before being published.

This month we hear from illustrator Paul Morton 

Hi Paul, what do you wish you had known before being published?

I’ll begin with book titles. These are important yet can be out of your control as they may be changed by the marketing team to better stand out in a crowded market.


Paul Morton and Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble 

#1 Book titles and spacing


My first book Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble was originally called Babysitting Blunder, but my publisher wasn’t sure if young readers would grasp what a blunder was. Good point. The new title is great but, if not clearly written out, eg. BugBelly, not Bug Belly, it can cause a few problems.

Note the spacing - these are important features especially for accurately cataloguing in libraries.


#2 Book titles and Google


While I’d researched the name to ensure no other characters were called Bug Belly, I wish I’d known that Google would prefer my search to be Big Belly. Imagine how annoying it is when Google says ‘showing results for Big Belly, or did you really mean to search for Bug Belly?'


So my advice is to check and double check your title for any possible doppelgängers, duplicates and potential typos that will prevent your book being found.


Importance of book titles: Bug Belly

As an aside to this, as my books have been out for 4 years now, there is sufficient Bug Belly traffic on the web to return successful results. I’ve worked hard at establishing this footprint. I’ve created hundreds of resource sheets and craft activities and frequently update my social media about events, visits and free downloads. Make sure you tag all images and posts with the book title.


The next thing would be about selling on Amazon.

#3 Amazon categories

Amazon offer a choice to sub-categorise the title. My publisher uploaded my two Bug Belly books under Books and also under Literature and Fiction For Children’s Books, Humorous Fiction for Young Adults and Humorous Fiction for Children.


This was a great idea and although they never made it near the top sellers in Books, they have reached the top 30 titles under Humorous Fiction for Young Adults which is amazing.


Importance of choosing Amazon categories

Yet, if we had sub-categorised even further, we could have also listed under Frogs & Toads and I’m pretty sure I would have seen my books topping the chart in this list. Then I’d have the right to announce my book as a top ten seller on Amazon.


It hasn’t so far been possible to change these sub categories retrospectively, so my advice is to choose wisely and deliberately when first uploading.


# 4 School visits & events


My first school visits and bookshops events left me a little nervous but I soon came to enjoy doing them. They are a great way to meet your readers and foster new ones. However it took a couple of events - one in a library, another in a bookshop - for me to resolve a problem.


My books are aimed at 5-8 year olds, so I tailor the events accordingly but many younger siblings also come along. That’s fine in some cases, but at one reading my large artwork spreads were crawled upon by 2 year olds whose parents let them roam freely.


A fellow SCBWI offered the perfect solution - bring soft toy frogs for the little ones to play with and throw around. Also rubber or plastic toys are easy to wash afterwards. Having something like this prepared keeps the tiny tots engaged leaving you free to focus on the larger group.

Toys as a valuable aid for school visits & events

*Header Image: Ell Rose
                                                                                                           **All other images courtesy of Paul Morton 


A professional illustrator for over 30 years and illustration organiser for SCBWI. Paul has worked in commercial advertising as well as children's games and educational books. His first 2 fully illustrated early readers feature Bug Belly the greedy frog, published by Five Quills. 

Currently working on an illustrated YF, a graphic novel for 6-9 yr olds and a picture book and Paul is actively seeking representation.

Insta & Tw: @paulhoffrog 


Loretta Flockhart is features editor for Words & Pictures
You can find her on Twitter @lolajflo


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.
Find their work at https://fourfooteleven.com
Follow them on Instagram and Twitter
Contact them at illustrators@britishscbwi.org

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